Tuesday, February 26, 2008

La Playa - Villas del Pacifico

The past weekend we got the awesome opportunity of chilling on the beach. We left Saturday morning for a windy trip down the mountains to the coast. On the way we stopped at McDonalds for lunch, but with the roads none of us were really up to eating too much.

Our resort was called Villas del Pacifico. It is a gorgeous, all-inclusive resort with a private black-sand beach. After checking in we headed straight for the ocean, of course. We spent most of the weekend fighting currents and swimming in the waves. Most of the bigger waves were between 6 and 8 feet, and often had fish swimming in them. I got the joy of riding the tops of many waves, and of also being washed under and tossed around quite a few times. Fortunately we all stayed safe, and avoided getting pulled completly out to the sea.

It was an awesome weekend of relaxation and sunshine. I came back with only burned in the armpits... ouch. Others were not so lucky, and one person even missed school yesterday because he was burnt so badly.

Now we're off and running in our third week of language school - this week I have a 10 minute presentation and a 45 minute debate! If you don't here from me for a while, that's why!We're doing well, and are having a blast. Keep the US news coming!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Some photos for your enjoyment!

For those of you who want to see more pics!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


We’re living in Antigua until April 27th. Since we’re here so long, we were finally able to unpack our stuff. It’s so nice not to be living out of a suitcase! While here we’re going to Central Linguistico Maya. We have one on one instruction, four hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks. After this session we’ll ride a chicken bus to and from our ministry sites for a week, then SPRING BREAK, then another week of service. During April we’ll have our second four week session at the language school.
I’m currently taking Advanced Oral Communication, so I basically converse and read outloud during my time at school. I can already feel myself improving, even though it’s been less than a week. We have seven presentations to do during these four weeks, so it should be pretty fun....
Home and city life here is completely different. First of all, it’s a city full of tourists and people learning Spanish – it’s strange not being the only Gringos in town! We’re at a boarding house, with other language students, and several Guatemalan girls attending private school on scholarship. Our room is huge in comparison to our Magdalena room. Our beds are full mattresses, and comfy. It’s definitely different, but really wonderful. There’s a beautiful blooming courtyard in the middle of the house (we’re on second floor), and an amazing view of the mountains over the rooftops. Antigua is surrounded by mountains, and is also very close to three volcanoes – two of which are active. Volcano Agua is to the south, and is the closest one. Thankfully it’s inactive. The other two are to the west, and far enough away that they aren’t too much of a risk to the city. I don't have too many pictures yet... but I will eventually! All the ones on this post are of our house.

Niños de Guatemala

Again, there’s not really too much to put into words about the children here in Guatemala. There’s so much trust and love, and they’re all amazing. Here are some pictures… A little info for those of you who don't know Guatemalan traditions.... The kids are dressed up in costumes for Pica-Pica day. Pica-Pica is an incredibly messy fun tradition - kids buy confetti filled egg shells and smash them on each others' heads. It's crazy!

El Gorrion

While in Magdalena, the site I’m working at is called El Gorrion. It’s a small community of 69 families and two tiny roads. The community was built after Hurricane Mitch, and most families living there were from a village that was wiped out by the Hurricane. The government provided this tiny bit of land as compensation, and promised to always provide for them. This sadly hasn’t always been the case, and a lot of people are without water because the government has stopped bringing water to most families. The school, which is where I work, has been open four years and goes through 6th grade. Most of the teachers are 21 or 22, and the director is a mere 25. Fortunately they are being paid by the government, but not much. Marcos, our site leader, is a Students International volunteer, is on outside support for income. He’s the music teacher on Mondays and Tuesdays, Christian morals teacher on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the crafts teacher on Fridays. Everyday lunch is provided for the students and children of the community. Most children go without breakfast, and dinner is usually pretty meager. This is a very important part of the school’s outreach, for the community would starve without it. In general, the kids are not very motivated to attend school and learn, because with the level of poverty in this community there is little to no hope for a future outside of working in the fields. There are four of us serving at El Gorrion – Rachel Giese, Sarah Muyskens , Ashley Watts, and myself. What we do is help Marcos with his classes. We help plan the lessons and activities, and also teach time to time. Every day we help serve lunch and play with the kids during recess (mainly jump rope). We walk 30 minutes to El Gorrion, up and down many steep hills, then work 9:00 – 12:30. We eat lunch with Marcos, spend time planning, then leave for the ½ hour walk back around 1:30. It’s a long, tiring, but very rewarding day. Even in this short week of ministry, I can tell we have the opportunity to make a huge impact of the school and community of El Gorrion. God’s hand is apparent in what’s being done at the school.


Magdalena is a pueblo in the mountains of 18.000 people. It feels much smaller though, because it is very spread out and where we live, rather poor. It's an amazing town, and there aren't many other Gringos besides our team when we're living there.
When we got up to Magdalena we met our host families and went to our houses. My host mom carried my giant 47 lb duffel on her head up hill to the house and up the extremely narrow stairs to our room! Our family is incredibly sweet and compassionate. Our parents are a little older with several kids and 10 grandchildren. A few of the grandchildren and one of the daughters know some English so that was a very nice ice-breaker into the life here in their house. Outside our room there was a huge sign that says “Welcome to Home…” Our room is split with a curtain, the smaller half with a chair and wardrobe and the larger half with two twin beds and a small table. We have our own little roof off our room, which is so fun to go out and hang out on while basking in the sun and the beautiful mountains. Below are pictures of our room, and the view from our roof!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2/2 – Guatemala City Plunge

We had a Guatemala City plunge in Zone 1 this morning. There are 14 zones in Guatemala City with Zone 1 being downtown and the most poverty stricken, and Zone 14 being the richest of the rich. On the way downtown on another rented Chicken Bus, we stopped at an over look of another gorgeous valley. This time instead of being filled with trash it was absolutely covered with little shanty-towns with only footpaths as access and zero electricity and water. Our guide said that during the civil wars a lot Mayans and indigenous Guatemaltecas came into the city seeking a new home and some shelter from the massacres. It was another very humbling moment. Once we got downtown we split up into teams and did a small scavenger hunt. It was a crazy first real test of our Spanish, but really fun. We visited a movie theater and several stores and markets in the downtown area. Following the scavenger hunt we toured the Palace – the old building where the leaders of the country worked (kind of like a Capital building but crazy fancy). We also looked around in the main old Cathedral, while prayer was going on. We ate lunch at an amazing restaurant and ate the world’s best vanilla ice cream – no joke! After our plunge we packed up our stuff at the seminary and loaded up a rented Chicken Bus with ourselves and all our junk and headed up the mountain to Magdalena.

2/1 – Visit to National Cemetery and Landfill

On February 1st we visited the national Cemetery and the Guatemala City landfill. It was an incredible experience, and it’s hard to put it into words. Thus, the focus of this entry is pictures.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Some news....

Some news.... we all got sick Sunday night and are still recovering now... We had eaten at a restaurant and apparently that was not good. I just had diarrhea and a lot of pain, but others threw up A LOT and one ended up in the hospital. He just got out an hour ago, and is doing well. We're in Antigua for the afternoon, but are going back soon. I'm feeling pretty good, but others are still a bit iffy.

Don't count on me having internet until Sunday or Monday - we'll be in Magdalena until Sunday. Then I'll have access to wireless in the SI office, so I'll be able to share a lot more.

I hope everything is good - I miss and love you!

Friday, February 1, 2008

We're here!

We are in Guatemala! We got in around 11:00 last night and to SEMILLA - the seminary we're staying until tomorrow evening - around 12:00.
Our flights got switched around in Minneapolis which made life a little crazy. We were originally going to leave at 2:45, but due to a weather system got put onto a flight on a different airline which was boarding at 1:00. It was a very complicated process of getting checked in, and some group members barely made it to the gate before boarding. A few of our group members didn't even have seats on the flight, and had to wait until the final boarding call. Fortunately we all made it on the flight. We were in Houston for 2 hours before boarding for our Guatemala flight. We ended up leaving a little late, and hit a big patch of turbulence for about an hour of the flight. Once we got in, going through customs was no problem, but 16 of our bags did not come in. I was one of the lucky ones and got my bags, but others were without everything. They just arrived now, and everything is now in the country.

This afternoon we toured the national cemetry, and got a look (and wiff) of the city land fill. It was all very intersting, and I hope to get a chance to write about it in another post.

That's about it for now!
I love and miss you!